As most happy and successful people will attest, creating a routine is crucial. It's probably the most effective psychological structure we mere mortals can construct in the face of the never-ending pit of procrastination and chaos. What happens when we do the same thing repeatedly is that our "fight or flight" fear of the unknown instincts turn off. We know what to expect, and as we become masters of the little things in our lives, we can focus on the bigger things, and do so with more ease and comfort.
Routines are what construct our experiences, in a much more profound way than we realize. Our lives ultimately culminate to the little things we do day-in and day-out, though we assume they'll be defined by the bigger moments, they usually fall to the background of routine. Most of us never take it upon ourselves to sincerely evaluate what it is we do and accomplish each day, and simply because we're unaware, we slowly dig ourselves into ruts without even realizing. It's important to be mindful of all the little ways you're standing in the way of your own potential. Here are seven ways you're making your routine harder than it needs to be (and how to stop — starting today):
You're Not Writing Things Down Manually
When we write things by hand, our brains remember and process them better. Wake up in the morning and write down exactly what you want to accomplish and by what time. Start with the little things, and cross them off as you do them. The momentum will naturally build, and it will kind of ground you in whatever it is your doing in a way that a Google alert just can't. (Plus there are so many cute day planners you stopped taking advantage of in Target.)
You're Not Packing Ahead
The single biggest problem with any and every morning routine is when it doesn't begin at night. Do not go to bed until your apartment is at least tidy, and your clothes are picked out and your bag is packed for the next day — and everything you'll need in-between, from your keys to extra tampons to a certain color underwear with the dress you're wearing, is laid out as well. If you start your day out flustered, it's only going to escalate from there.
You're Not Scheduling Procrastination
You absolutely cannot expect to be productive every single moment of the day. Yet, that's what we seem to imply when we create these unrealistic schedules that don't leave time for natural human faltering. Make time to do nothing. Write it down that that's the plan. Give yourself permission to forget about absolutely everything else for that bit of time. It's pressing the mental "reset" button, and it's crucial to actually being productive with the time you do use to work.
You're Trying To Get Too Much Done And Confusing It With "Ambition"
Over-scheduling (and over-compensating) because you want to feel as though the day was well-spent, and because you want to go home with the feeling of having developed superhuman powers and got everything done, is as counterproductive as it gets. Compare it to a diet that's too strict — once your body realizes it's starving, it snaps and you binge, because it's impossible to maintain such an unrealistic standard for yourself. Replace your endless laundry list of tasks with a few meaningful ones that umbrella some of the other less-desirable things. Be realistic, even if what's "realistic" is less than you'd hope. Getting the momentum going will get you there faster than just trying to push yourself to achieve a certain feeling will.
You Don't Have A Support System
As much as you need someone to motivate you at work and inspire your next big project, you also need someone to listen to you rant when you come home. You need to have someone you can text and say "Today sucked, I just wanted to tell someone about it," and have that be it. You need an array of people in your life to support you in all the iterations of it — if that support can come from just one person, more power to you.
You Don't Change The Scenery Enough
You cannot expect to relax in the same space that you work. You cannot expect to be inspired by staring at the same grey cubicle wall for another 7 hours. You have to make it a point to change the scenery, as often as you can. Redecorate. Work from home. Work from a coffee shop. Just go outside for a little while. Take a day trip. Shift the lighting. Changing what you see will actually shift how your brain fires off signals, and it will change your experience more than you'd assume.
You're Not Doing Work That Motivates You
It doesn't necessarily have to be work that inspires you. Not everything is going to be a passion project, and that's OK. But to realistically function in life, you have to be doing work that makes you want to do it — even if it's just for the paycheck. You don't need to be working your dream job, or be consistently, unfailingly enthralled with every task you do, but you do at least need to have enough motivation to actually do the work that's in front of you. The truth is that it's much less about passion than it is about purpose, and motivation is acknowledging the purpose of a task. If you can't do one, you can't do the other.
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